Your Complete Guide to RFID Asset Tracking
Whether you’re running a retail store or a healthcare business, you need to track your inventory of assets effectively.
And you may have considered RFID asset tracking to manage assets and ensure your business operations run smoothly.
According to one study, retailers stand to lose up to $124 for each client due to inventory distortion. From ineffective internal processes to training issues, the causes for these inventory problems are many.
Thankfully, asset tracking solutions like Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) can take inventory management to the next level and eliminate these issues.
If this is your first time assessing RFID technologies for your inventory management, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading as we dive deep into all the essential things you need to know about RFID asset tracking for all of your items.
What Is RFID Asset Tracking?
RFID asset tracking refers to the use of RFID technology to track a business’s assets in real time. It involves loading RFID tags with data and attaching them to the assets. Then, each item and all relevant data can be tracked and accessed by a computer that receives the information.
Of course, the mechanism also involves an RFID reader, an antenna, and an asset tracking system that serves different purposes based on the type of RFID tag.
Before we move on to the workings of RFID asset tracking, let’s first understand the various types of RFID tags:
Types of RFID Tags
Depending on how the RFID tags transfer data and their proximity to the receiver, RFID tags can be categorized into three types.
Let’s see how they differ.
Active RFID tags transmit their own signals as they have a built-in battery and an onboard transmitter. These features also make active RFIDs the most expensive of all RFID tags, each costing around $15 to $50.
Because of the onboard transmitter, these tags provide the longest tracking range: around 300 to 600 feet. This makes them great for tracking assets across multiple facilities. The transmitter also allows for real-time updates.
The most common applications of active RFID are for tracking large items like automobiles and cargo containers.
However, due to the heavy use of the transmitter, active RFIDs only last 3 to 4 years.
Passive RFID tags don’t have batteries and can only reflect signals from the RFID reader. They must remain in close proximity to respond to these signals, giving them a very limited range (about 10 to 100 feet).
But the lack of battery isn’t all that bad. It makes passive RFIDs very affordable, costing $0.25 to $5. They’re also the longest lasting, with a lifespan of 20 to 25 years.
These features are ideal if you’re looking to store assets in the long term. Their limited range makes them suitable for businesses with a single storage facility.
The most common examples of passive RFID are item-level tracking for pharmaceuticals and consumer goods.
The features of semi-passive RFIDs are a mix of active and passive ones. They have built-in batteries just like active RFID tags but with a difference. The transmitters are only active while responding to the reader’s cues. Once the transmission is complete, the transmitters return to a dormant, low-power state. The battery increases the read range (10 to 165 feet), so you can track assets across multiple facilities.
However, battery degradation gives these tags a short lifespan of 4 to 5 years before they have to be replaced.
Semi-passive tags can also store data. They’re often used for inventories that require a higher degree of condition monitoring, such as temperature-controlled transit.
Overall, semi-passive tags cost around $10 to $25.
How Does RFID Asset Tracking Work?
Despite the various types of RFID tags available today, most RFID asset tracking works in the same manner.
All kinds of RFID asset tracking use the same four tools: RFID tags, an RFID reader, an antenna, and a computer database equipped with asset tracking software.
And most RFID asset tracking follows the same four processes outlined below:
First, you must store all the data on an RFID tag which has its own unique Electronic Product Code (EPC). And then, you must attach each tag to the corresponding asset.
An antenna will identify the signal of a nearby RFID tag.
The antenna, which is connected to an RFID reader, then transmits the data on the tag to the RFID reader.
The RFID reader transmits the information from the tag to a computer database, where it is fed into robust asset tracking software.
The software then makes it easy to count the assets, locate them, bring up their information, track them, etc.
How to Use RFID for Inventory?
You can use RFID technology to label items in your inventory and monitor them in real time. You can place RFID tags on individual items or on entire pallets.
RFID tags can store a significant amount of information and of a wide variety, too. You can load your RFID tags with details like product name, amount, condition, location, status, etc. This makes it much easier to conduct day-to-day operations involving maintenance, inspections, tracking, etc.
Asset and inventory managers can also use this data to better allocate the company’s resources for improved investment planning.
Benefits of RFID Asset Tracking
Here are some more benefits of using RFID asset tracking for your inventory.
1. Data/Asset Visibility
RFID asset tracking allows you to collect data without having to scan a barcode or QR code. Plus, you can track multiple items at the same time.
And the data that you’ve fed into the tags is easy to access without having to locate the physical item in your storage facility or shop floor.
The best part is that all data is easily accessible to your team in real time and on any device through the cloud.
2. Inventory/Data Accuracy
RFID systems are a massive upgrade from spreadsheets and other manual processes that leave a lot of scope for human error. Its automated format not only makes data collection faster, but also reduces errors like duplication and spelling mistakes.
In addition, you will always have a clear idea of your inventory levels without the need to do a physical count. This will help you restock items promptly to prevent stockouts.
3. Reduced Theft, Loss, and Misplacement of Assets
Studies suggest retail shrink accounts for up to $100 million worth of losses. This can be caused by inventory shrink, theft, or organized retail crime.
Because RFID tags track the movement and location of all assets within your facility, they dramatically bring down instances of theft, loss, and misplacement.
4. Higher Return-On-Investment (ROI)
While relatively expensive to set up, a robust RFID system can help minimize losses from inventory shrinkage and stockouts in the long run.
But that’s not all. You can also save money on operational costs thanks to automated processes that reduce man-hours for every task.
RFID solutions are also long-lasting, which helps drive ROI for all sizes and types of businesses.
5. Quality Assurance
With RFID tags, you can easily maintain and ensure consistent quality of assets wherever they are in the operations cycle.
If you’re holding assets that need quality checks, RFIDs also make it easy to track the data from their inspections.
Is RFID Tracking Better Than Barcode/QR Code Tracking?
RFID asset tracking is better than barcode and QR code tracking for a lot of reasons. Mainly because it enables you to track a large number of items at once and from a distance, even when they’re out of sight.
Here are some more reasons to opt for RFIDs instead of barcodes and QR:
- RFID does not require line-of-sight access
- RFID tags are more durable
- RFIDs can store lots of information
- More RFIDs can be scanned at once
However, RFID tracking systems are more expensive to deploy than barcodes and QR code systems. A complete RFID warehouse management system can cost you anywhere between $5,000 and $100,000. This includes the RFID tags ($0.25 to $50), RFID readers ($1,000 to $2,000), an antenna ($200 or more), and an asset tracking system ($3 to $15 per month).
Next Level Inventory Organization With Nest Egg
RFID has many different applications across industries. But one of its most profitable and valuable ones is in inventory management. It reduces losses, minimizes management costs, and brings medium/large businesses much-needed visibility and accuracy—RFID asset tracking makes inventory management a breeze.
And when paired with an asset management software, it assures you of next-generation stock management that saves both time and effort.
If you want to add barcode/QR code to your small business’ inventory management, Nest Egg’s solutions will make things a lot easier. And if you’re a medium/large business looking to take your inventory management to the next level with RFID, get in touch to learn about our upcoming offerings!
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